Fine Dining, Vermont Style

Things are pretty laid back here in Vermont, and there’s an emphasis on farm-to-table as strong as anywhere in the country. So if you were going to dream up a fabulous new restaurant to open in Woodstock, you’d have to incorporate those things while taking food to the next level.

Which is exactly what owners Matt Lombard and Nick Laurendeau have done at Mangalitsa, a tiny gem that opened last year in the space Osteria Pane e Salute occupied for many years. The name is taken from a Hungarian heritage breed of pig, and Chef Laurendeau is a genius with pork, beef, lamb, and chicken sourced locally, along with fish delivered daily from the coast.

We dined at Mangalitsa last week and could not have had a better experience. Don is a die-hard purist when it comes to his martinis, but in the spirit of a night out, he tried a ginger and beet martini (vodka, fresh beets, ginger, apple, lime, and ginger liqueur) that was so good he had two. Not to be outdone by the bartender, the chef showed up with two dinner rolls that put all the bread we’d ever eaten to shame. Straight from the oven, light as air, delicious on their own but served with herbed lemon butter.

We shared two small plates, both wonderful: coffee-braised beets with sheep’s milk yogurt, smoked maple, and pickled mustard seed and a wild mushroom “lasagna” that was actually a paper-thin sheet of pasta rolled around a whole lot of deliciousness. As we were eating, we were informed by Matt that the mushrooms in the dish had been foraged on Happy Valley Road—our street!

For my entrée, I tried the grilled striped bass with warm potato salad, which was fabulous. I didn’t try Don’s beef strip loin with broccoli, tempura eggplant, and black garlic, but he assured me it was perfect. We were really too full for dessert but decided to try the s’mores ice cream anyway—so, so good.

We’re truly happy to see this type of dining come to downtown Woodstock—Matt and Nick are hitting all the right notes. Matt let us know they’re happy to change an element on a dish if it doesn’t appeal, something that’s important with a small menu (there were four entrees the night we visited); you could also easily make a meal out of two small plates.

We should note that tables are booked about two weeks out and email is the best way to snag one. However, Matt said we shouldn’t hesitate to let him know if guests are interested in dining with them with less advance notice than that. Of course, we’ll expect a full report on your experience…